[iDC] A Modest Proposal: Let's get rid of the teachers

Mark Marino markcmarino at gmail.com
Wed Feb 18 07:49:47 UTC 2009

Hi, IDC-ers:

Please consider the proposal below in the spirit in which it was intended...

Today, sitting in a left-handed chair-desk in a mandatory writing
class, with a not-so-mandatory technology component, I asked my
students: Do we really need libraries and librarians in the age of Web

One replied: Couldn't we ask the same thing about everyone? Even teachers?

(collective gasp from students)

Well, why not?

What if we just got rid of teachers, the way we've gotten rid of
journalists and books, VCRs and retirement funds?  Let's follow open
content to its natural conclusion...

Instead of that Web 1.0-notion of professors and Instructors, we could
have Link Jockeys

Chronicle Job Description:
             Wanted: NTT Link Jockeys.  Instead of teaching classes,
delivering lectures, and creating wicked midterm essay questions, we
seek Link Jockeys (or Tag Mavens or User Yentas) to spend their time
networking students with pre-existing online content, social scholars,
and a demographically balanced mixed of like-minded students.  Salary:
Gift Economy Karma/Linden

Duties of the Link Jockey:
No more office hours. No more lesson plans.  No more wrestling with
students' dispersed attention spans.  (Google has already made them
stoopid.  No need to make them angry, too.)  Link Jockeys will busy

1) Creating "syllabi" of entirely (Free) online content:
             viral videos: Ted videos, youtube (Charlie Bit My Finger
101), videojug
             sharable widgets
             free readings
             link lists
             blog feeds

2) Connecting students with online mentors:
            These social shirpas help students find scholars to
"friend" and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Social Bookmarking sites
            Students rinse themselves in the streams of content
regularly coursing forth from these web-springs.

3) Compiling lists of listservs and discussion forums for the students
to join. (Toss those tired discussion starters.)  And if that's not
enough interaction:

4) Assigning students into cohorts based on an interest survey (a la
Friend Recommendation).  Collect them in Ning or Facebook groups

5) Compelling all "students" (--aren't we all students?--) to blog,
bookmark, and Twitter so they are rebroadcasting their reflections and

Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

(Note by wiki-izing this process, the job tasks below could be
crowdsourced -- or better yet re-distribute this job to the millions
of users trying to register for adult content sites in the manner of
Captcha.  Users could become passive micro-contributors to online
education by correctly tagging, say, an LoC holding about
globalization as either "international relations" or "global conquest"
or "Web 2.0")

Such a bold move would alleviate the troubles of grading, fretting
over a particular class or student, or even finding a job in a down

You might be thinking: Does he mean online education like Open
University? THE University of Phoenix?

No, not at all.  I don't mean teachers would be paid to teach courses
online, nor do I mean students attending online unis.  There would be
no courses really and certainly no teaching in some old-fashioned,
hegemonic, spoon-feeding, outline-following, learning-outcome sense.
The goal is simple: make links with the hope that the students will
begin to make their own.

Aren't we awfully close?

Would this really be so bad?

I wonder.  I wondered aloud to those same students who were either
text messaging weekend plans to their friends or Twittering my
revolutionary proposal to the world.


Writing Program
University of Southern California

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